Miami HEAT at Atlanta Hawks Game Preview

Photo Credit: Joe Murphy

The Miami HEAT face the Atlanta Hawks Monday night at Philips Arena. The HEAT defeated the Hawks 104-93 in their last meeting on Oct. 23. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Despite injuries on both sides, how were the HEAT able to pull out a close win over the Clippers on Saturday?

Couper Moorhead: Josh Richardson. That’s really all that needs to be said about this one. Richardson set a career high with 28 points, shooting 6-of-8 from three and making timely rim attacks, but he could have done all of that and still been the player of the game just because of his defense – he had three blocks, a steal and two deflections but that doesn’t nearly tell the entire story of his night as drive after drive was thwarted by either exceptional on-ball defense or recovery help. Statistically speaking, there’s a solid argument for Richardson being the most important player on the team thus far.

Joe Beguiristain: As Coup stated above, the night belonged to Josh Richardson. In addition to scoring a career-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting, the 24-year-old also got the job done on the defensive end. In fact, Richardson helped hold Lou Williams and Jawun Evans to just 7-of-23 shooting combined. With so many guys out for the Clippers, they really needed Williams’ offensive production from the perimeter. Richardson understood that, accepted the challenge and wound up with a career night.

While the former Tennessee Volunteer balled out, Kelly Olynyk also came up big in the victory. Thanks to some deliberate and patient actions with the ball in his hands, Olynyk scored nine points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-4 shooting. 

As a whole, the HEAT’s execution on both ends of the floor could have been better, but the bottom line is they took care of business against a team they were supposed to beat.

2: How has Atlanta’s season been going and where are they a specific threat to the HEAT?

Couper: The Hawks are a bit of a conundrum this season. They lost Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the offseason, they are certainly geared toward playing big given their flexible rotation and are exceptionally well coached, but with injuries taking their total they’re just carving out an average offense with a below-average defense on their way to a 6-23 record.

That said, the Hawks are a bit like the HEAT in the sense that they both have effective and true shooting percentages that exceed their offensive rankings, but are brought down by their overall turnover percentages and low free-throw rates. In that sense, the Hawks are deadlier than they seem as in any given game they’re liable to have an elite shooting night behind Dennis Schroeder’s penetration.

Joe: The Hawks have struggled mightily this season, as they’ve dropped four straight and are just 6-23 on the year. The reason why Atlanta has had such a rough start is due to its poor defense. Here’s all you need to know: the Hawks give up 108.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks them 28th in the league.

Now, that has obviously hindered the team tremendously, but their offense helps keep them afloat at times. Thanks to Dennis Schröder, Atlanta is actually one of the best passing teams in the NBA. Of course, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer also plays a role in that.

Although Schröder hasn’t shot the ball too well over the past five games, Ersan Ilyasova has averaged 17.0 points per game on 62.3 percent shooting from the field during that span. With Ilyasova and the dynamic John Collins at the power forward spot, Miami’s bigs will be tested. Fortunately enough, Jordan Mickey has shown the ability to move laterally with ease on the defensive end.

3: With Miami’s current injuries, how do you expect Spoelstra’s lineups to change?

Couper: As James Johnson was diagnosed with ankle bursitis and it appears he will miss 7-10 days of action, in conjunction with Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside it appears the HEAT will remain shorthanded for the immediate future. That being said, Johnson’s absence means the most at the moment as he’s been starting recently alongside Kelly Olynyk in the frontcourt. If both he and Winslow can’t play then it means the HEAT will likely look toward a lineup they have yet to use much this season with either Bam Adebayo or Jordan Mickey starting at the four spot. It might not matter as much against an Atlanta team that generally plays small, especially with Dewyane Dedmon and Mike Muscala missing time, but if the games roll on with the same limitations it will be interesting to see if the HEAT opt to play super-small and/or how teams adjust to them. 

Joe: It’ll certainly be tough without a major contributor and starter in James Johnson. Not only is Johnson’s versatility key for the HEAT, but also his leadership qualities both on and off the floor. That said, injuries are part of the game and they affect every team at some point or another.

If Justise Winslow can give it a go on Monday night, I expect Erik Spoelstra to roll with him at the four and Olynyk at the five. While Winslow has missed the past two games due to a left knee strain, it’s encouraging that he did travel with the team to Atlanta (Johnson and Hassan Whiteside will be in Miami for the duration of the road trip). If Winslow can’t play however, I think Mickey will get the start at power forward. Either way, we'll likely see Bam Adebayo and Mickey on the floor together once again. On Saturday, the duo had a cool sequence in which Mickey ran the break and hit Adebayo for a jumper in transition.

We’ll see what Coach Spo decides to do.

INJURY UPDATE: Dion Waiters (illness) & Goran Dragić (elbow) are both listed as questionable. Winslow (knee) is doubtful.

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Highlights:

Oct. 23 – Hawks at HEAT

Feb. 24 – HEAT at Hawks

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won four of five and are 15-14.
  • The Hawks have lost four straight and enter the contest at 6-23.
  • Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise) and James Johnson (right ankle bursitis) did not travel with the team to Atlanta.
  • Dennis Schröder leads Atlanta in points (19.7) and assists (6.7) per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 102.3 (24)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.0 (11)
  • Hawks Offense: 103.2 (19)
  • Hawks Defense: 108.4 (28)

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